One major and negative narrative about the justice system is that wealthy and well-connected people get to live by different rules than the rest of us. One can find examples both reinforcing and undermining this, but the prevailing narrative remains.
If one wanted to find a blatant example of wealthy, privileged people getting their own justice system they can bend to their will, look no further than the anti-campus sexual assault movement. Born of false statistics and exaggerated (or wholly made up) victimhood, the movement has created (and seeks to maintain) a separate court system for those who can afford college.
What we’re left with is a movement that seeks “easy justice for me, but not for thee.” It’s a slap in the face to the millions of Americans who are at a higher risk for sexual assault and who cannot afford college, many of them poor, minority women.
This elitist view was confirmed by Connecticut State Sen. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, who plans to re-introduce an extreme campus sexual assault bill (which had previously failed) in the legislature. Flexer defended the separate justice system against accusations that laws were being created that treated college students differently than the general population.
“Flexer countered that colleges and universities are privileged environments that demand a higher set of standards,” the Connecticut Mirror reported. “She said state law is integral to protecting students on campus, and encourages colleges and universities to create better policy.”
Privileged people getting privileged justice — how progressive.
And let me be clear about what’s meant by “justice” in this context. It’s not the “justice” of having an allegedly violent person put on trial then, if found guilty, put in jail and removed from society so that he can’t rape or sexually assault other women. (Most of these accusations are made by women against men, though there has been at least one between two women and another between two men.) No, this is the “justice” that comes from accusers who regret a sexual encounter or past relationship and don’t want to see the guy again, so they lodge sexual assault accusations against him to get him expelled.
Not all accusations fit this narrative, to be sure. Sexual assault does happen, but the movement has been co-opted by grievance culture, where regretted encounters and innocent everyday behavior is elevated to the level of criminal activity if the wrong person is involved.
And the beneficiaries of this grievance culture tend to be white, wealthier women. Poor minority women must contend with an allegedly “violent criminal justice system.” What makes the criminal justice system “violent” (defined as “using or involving physical force intended to hurt, damage or kill someone or something”), is not explained. If “violent” means using facts and evidence to investigate a crime and not ruining someone’s life based on a shaky accusation, then yeah, I guess the criminal justice system is “violent.”
Feigning empathy for minority women, a writer for Know Your IX — a group dedicated to ensuring colleges continue using kangaroo courts to adjudicate felonies — explained that sexual assault accusers don’t want to go to the police. She wrote that for minority women especially, going to the police is troublesome.
“For others who are undocumented, gender nonconforming, or of color, going to the police often means risking suffering more violence, like deportation, police brutality, or criminalization themselves,” she wrote.
K.C. Johnson, co-author of a book about the Duke Lacrosse rape hoax, explained to the Washington Examiner how such a claim, coupled with the creation of campus kangaroo courts, hurts the women most likely to be sexually assaulted.
“To the extent they really believe this; and given the [Bureau of Justice Statistics numbers] that show women 18-24 who aren’t college students experience higher rates of sexual assault, shouldn’t redeeming the criminal justice system be the focus?” Johnson asked. “Instead, the message seems to be: Survivors who aren’t able to afford or otherwise attend college are out of luck.”
And if minority, non-student victims are “out of luck” because they don’t have access to the kinder, gentler justice system that allows them to get rid of the accused student with just a say-so, minority men are at a disadvantage whether they’re in the privileged world of college or not.
“But nothing so malign need be at work when black men show up in the dock: Morning-after remorse can make sex that seemed like a good idea at the time look really alarming in retrospect; and the general social disadvantage that black men continue to carry in our culture can make it easier for everyone in the adjudicative process to put the blame on them,” wrote Harvard professor Janet Halley. “Similar dynamics affect gay men, lesbians, and trans individuals: Being attracted to them can so shock some people that the easiest way back to equanimity is to attack them.” (Emphasis original.)
Halley also described her time as a campus adjudicator and how Title IX — the law used to dumb down sexual assault from a crime to a “gender equity” problem — does not ensure racial equity.
“Case after Harvard case that has come to my attention, including several in which I have played some advocacy or adjudication role, has involved black male respondents, but the institution cannot ‘know’ this because it has not been thought important enough to monitor for racial bias,” Halley wrote.
The campus sexual assault debate amounts to privileged people wanting to play by different rules — rules that do not require facts or evidence. Activists claim that the kangaroo courts were created in part because the actual courts don’t find enough people guilty (it’s tough to make a case without evidence, but on college campuses, that becomes a feature, not a bug) and are hostile to accusers.
If that is indeed the case, then the criminal justice system needs to be reformed. The answer is not to throw our hands up and create a whole new “justice” system. Ironically, activists claim that the problems with campus courts should be fixed while maintaining those campus courts, instead of disbanding them and returning to the actual courts.
But fixing the “problems” with criminal and civil courts would require an evisceration of constitutional due process rights — something that has been allowed in campus courts but would be impossible to do in actual courts.
And thus, activists want to continue to use a justice system that bends to their will, rather than accept the fact that they’re not all victims.
This commentary was published originally on October 15 in the Washington Examiner and is reprinted with permission.